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Group of Eight(G-8)

I. Introduction:

1. G-8 Forum for Leaders of Worlds Largest Economies and Major Industrialised Nations:
The Group of Eight (G-7), the world’s eight most economically powerful countries, was conceived of as a forum for leaders of the world|s largest economies and major industrial countries to come together and discuss global issues in an informal and cooperative environment.
The G-8 does not have a trans-national administration unlike the UN or the World Bank and hence there it has no headquarters, budget or permanent staff.

2. Origins in the 1973 Oil Crisis:
The origin of G-7 can be traced to the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent global recession. The first meeting of the G-7 countries took place at France in 1975.

3. Entry of Russia:
The G-7 was converted to G-8 by the entry of Russia into the group in June 1997. Russia was rewarded for its role in defusing the Bosnia crisis and the eastward expansion of NATO.

4. Russia and G8 Nations Mutually Dependent:
Analysts point out that currently the G8 nations are more concerned about the stability of oil prices and security of supply. The G8 nations have cut their dependence on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for supply of oil. The G8 members rely heavily on Russia to meet their energy needs. A third of Russia|s crude oil is exported to G8 nations. Russia|s economy has transformed due to the revenue earned from export of oil and gas to the G8 nations.

5. Members:
US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia.

6. G8+5 - Outreach Partners (O5):
India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico were invited to G-8 annual summits as outreach partners to deepen dialogue with the industrialised nations on priority issues of international agenda.
The G8+5, known as Outreach Five (O5) or the Plus Five, was formed in 2005 when Britain hosted the G8 Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland.
The Heiligendamm Process through which the institutionalisation of permanent dialogues between G-8 and O5 would be implemented was established at the Heligendamm Summit in Germany in 2007.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the O5, which are emerging economies, should become members of the G-8. However the G8 countries have different opinions about it with the US and Japan against enlargement of G8 and France and the UK favouring it.

7. Aim:
The aim of G-8 is to have consensus among the G-8 leaders in generating greater economic co-ordination and stability on the international scene.

8. Focus:
The initial focus of the G-8 Summits was on economic issues alone but after the Summit in the US in 1983, a political declaration was also added.

9. Functioning of the G-8:
The Presidency of the G-8 rotates among the member States on an annual basis, with the new President assuming responsibility on January 1. The country holding the presidency hosts a series of meetings leading to a mid-year three-day summit with the Heads of State.

10. Criticism of the G-8 Summits:

Focus of Anti-Globalisation Protests:
The G-8 Summits are often the focus of anti-globalisation protests. Critics feel that the G-8 are responsible for global problems like global warming due to carbon dioxide emission, poverty in Africa and other developing countries due to debt crisis and unfair trading policy.

Lesser Foreign Aid:
The G-8 members are criticised for providing lesser than expected foreign aid. Critics demand that the G-8 nations should allow at least 0.7% of their GDP to go towards foreign aid as outlined in Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit in 1992.

Mere Media Hypes:
The G-8 Summits in recent years have been criticised for becoming mere media hypes and achieving nothing on the political or economic fronts.

II. G-8 Annual Summit (Hokkaido Toyako Japan, July 2008):

1. Agenda of the Summit:
Main Theme - Climate Change, Environment Rising oil prices, stablising financial markets, protection of intellectual property rights
World energy situationDevelopment of African nations and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 Global food security, strengthening of Non-Proliferation Treaty (With reference to North Korea and Iran) Peace building measures in Afghanistan, West Asia and Sudan.

2. Meeting of the Outreach Countries - O5 or G5:
Call for Shared Responsibility to Address the World Food Security: Leaders of the outreach countries, also known as O5 or G5, meeting on the sidelines of the G8 Summit, called for a shared responsibility to address the global food security. The joint declaration called upon the international community to devise better ways and means of producing and distributing food. It also pointed out that multi-billion agricultural trade-distorting support in developed countries have hampered the development of food production capacity in developing countries, critically reducing their possibilities of reaction to the present crisis.

Stress on Establishing a Just and Reasonable International Trade Regime:
The joint declaration of the G-5 countries stressed on creating an enabling international environment for agro-produce related trade, establishing a just and reasonable international trade regime for agricultural products and concluding the Doha Round of WTO talks with meaningful commitments to agricultural subsidies reductions.

Food Security Crisis Demanded a Rapid and Substantial Increase in Allocation of Resources:
The leaders of the Outreach countries noted that the food security crisis demanded a rapid and substantial increase in allocation of resources to support rural development and combat hunger and poverty. They also stressed on encouraging collaborative action for better seeds and farm outputs that are sustainable and environmentally sound as well as a comprehensive approach in all fields, including finance, trade, aid, environment, intellectual property rights and technology transfer, so as to create a conducive international environment for food security.

Essential to Address the Challenges and Opportunities Posed by Biofuels:
The joint declaration said that it was essential to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels and the current food security crisis had multiple causes whose assessment required objectiveness. It also pointed out that biofuels, if developed substantially could effectively contribute to generating opportunities and achieving food and energy security altogether.

Public Policies for Production of Biofuels Should Contribute to Sustainable Development and Not Threaten Food Security:
The G-5 leaders emphasised that it was important that public policies for production of biofuels contribute to sustainable development and the well-being of the most vulnerable people and do not threaten food security.

Energy Security - Emphasis on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency:
On energy security, which was essential to ensure the steady growth of the global economy, the joint declaration by the G-5 said that the international community should emphasise on renewable energy and energy efficiency and give adequate consideration to solar, wind and hydro-electrical power, and biofuels such as ethanol and bio-diesel without adversely affecting food security.
Call for an integrated approach to energy cooperation, ensuring access to energy by developing countries on an equitable and sustainable manner.

3. G-8 Summit Declaration:

A. Climate Change:
All countries recognise that deep cuts in global emissions would be necessary to achieve the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) objective, and that adaptation would play a correspondingly vital role, according to the G-8 Summit declaration.
A long-term global goal for reducing global emissions needed to be set, but keeping in view the sentiments of the emerging economies like India, the declaration noted that the size of the cuts would take into account the principle of equity.
The G-8 agreed on the need for a global emissions cut of at least 50 per cent by 2050.The emissions cut would be taken against a 1990 baseline.
The developed major economies would attempt to stop the growth of emissions as soon as possible. The also agreed to implement economy-wide mid-term goals and take corresponding actions in order to achieve absolute emission cuts.

Developing Economies would Pursue Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions:
The declaration confirmed that the developing economies in this group, on their part would pursue, in the context of sustainable development, nationally appropriate mitigation actions, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building, with a view to achieving a deviation from business as usual emissions.
The Ability of Developing Countries to Achieve a Long-term Goal of Reducing Global Emissions would Depend on Affordable Technologies: The G-8 meeting recognised that the ability of the developing countries to achieve a long-term goal of reducing global emissions would depend on affordable, new, more advanced and innovative technologies, infrastructure, and practices that transform the way people live, produce and use energy, and manage land.
The G-8 agreed to work constructively together to promote the success of the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009.

B. Increasing Oil and Food Prices:
The G-8 called for efforts to bring down the oil prices,which had increased five-fold since 2003. There was a need to improve transparency on the oil market, according to the Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fakuda.
The G-8 leaders called on all countries to end export restrictions on food to allow supplies to be sent to countries that most needed them.

C. Global Economic Growth Moderated, the G-8 Remained Positive on the Future:
The global economy has been under threat from soaring oil and food prices as well as the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US that has affected the financial markets. The G-8 which account for two-thirds of the Worlds Gross Domestic Product (GDP) said that while the global economic growth had moderated, they remained positive on the future.

D. G-8 Backs the Indo-US Nuclear Deal:
The G-8 looked forward to working with India, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and other partners to advance India|s non-proliferation commitments and progress so as to facilitate a more robust approach to civil nuclear cooperation with India to help it meet its growing energy needs in a manner that enhances and reinforces the global non-proliferation regime, according to the Chair|s summary released at the end of the G-8 summit.

4. India's Role at the G-8 Summit:

1. India's Stand on Issues Related to Climate Change:
Sustained and Accelerated Economic Growth Critical for all Developing Countries - Quantitative Restrictions on Emissions cannot be considered:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated his stand on the obligations thrust on developing countries such as India by emphasising that sustained and accelerated economic growth was critical for all developing countries who cannot for the present even consider quantitative restrictions on their emissions.

No Demonstrable Progress on Agreed GHG Reductions from Developed Countries:
Dr. Singh told the G-8 meeting that no demonstrable progress on even the low levels of agreed Greenhouse gases (GHG) reductions was seen from the developed countries. He pointed out that the prognosis was that their emissions as a whole would continue to rise even in the years to come.

The G-8 Must Show Leadership by Delivering Significant GHG Reductions:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed that the G-8 must show the leadership by taking and then delivering truly significant GHG reductions.

2. India's Climate Change Views Not Fully Incorporated in the G-8 Declaration:
Dr. Singh told the G-8 leaders that even if some India|s views were not incorporated in the G-8 summit declaration, India would adopt the text as it was. He pointed out that the text of the declaration had been agreed to after protracted negotiations. This had been done in the spirit of compromise and willingness to accept each others| views.

3. Prime Minister Holds Bilateral Meetings with World Leaders:
India|s Prime Minster Manmohan Singh also held bilateral meetings with the Presidents of the US, Russia, China and others. Dr. Singh held useful discussions with the US President George W. Bush on the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation deal.

4. G-8's Backing of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal Significant for India:
Analysts point out that in a major breakthrough the G-8 summit backed the Indo-US nuclear calling for a more robust approach to civil nuclear cooperation with India. This was a complete reversal of its earlier position of slamming India for its alleged nuclear adventurism. Thus, India|s emergence as a rising power was evident at the G-8 summit.

5. G-8 Taking Account of India|s Concerns:
Analysts point out that the G-8 meetings are a significant part of exchanging ideas and concerns and with India becoming a regular member of these meetings; it is more likely that policies of major developed countries would take account of India|s concerns. Such concerns would become part of the record of each country and this could be reflected in their policies.

6. Greater Role for India and China at the Next G-8 Summit in Italy:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that emerging economies, including India and China, would play bigger role at the next G-8 summit in Italy in 2009. The leaders of the Outreach countries, including India and China, would join the G-8 leaders for a day-long meet in the next summit. In 2008 leaders of the Outreach countries spend only half a day with G-8 leaders.

IV. Conclusion:

1. G-8 Falls Short on GHG Emission Cuts:
Analysts point out that the goal of 50 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 outlined by the G-8 countries at the Hokkaido Toyako summit in Japan in July 2008 falls short of the climate change challenge faced by the world. The fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that to avoid sudden shifts in climate, there is an urgent need for the major GHG emitters to engage in concrete action to reduce emissions, and to fund mitigation and adaptation actions in vulnerable countries.

2. India Needs to Adopt Cleaner Technologies and Assess the National and Sector-specific Options to Reduce Emissions:
India has reiterated that as a developing country, there was no question of being equated with the G-8 in meeting emission cuts targets. However, analysts suggest that as a leader of the developing countries, India can adopt cleaner technologies and methods. Priority must be given to assess the national and sector-specific options to reduce emissions, and to achieve sustainable growth.

3. Threats to World Economy did not get Priority at the G-8 Summit:
Analysts point out that in the build-up to the G-8 summit, the global financial and oil food prices crisis were expected to get priority as every country in the world is experiencing the adverse impact of high oil and food prices. However, these aspects did not get the attention they deserved during the G-8 summit in Japan. India pointed out that climate change was linked to food and energy security. To address these problems in a meaningful way, forums like the G-8 need to come out with action plans as the different challenges facing the world need to be viewed within a common global framework.

4. G-8 Needs to Expanded to Reflect the Current Realities:
Analysts opine that the scope and nature of issues that the G-8 would have to deal in the time to come are bound to be varied and expansive. Thus, the G-8 needs to expand and include influential members of the international community like India, China and Brazil to reflect the current global realities.

Published date : 10 Aug 2009 02:06PM

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